Disclaimer: Owned by a bunch of other people, who probably wouldn't have thought of using feathers like that.
Notes: Written for Nos4a2no9 for her birthday (which this may have been somewhat late for. Oops). This is my first go at wing!fic and it was really kind of fun to write. I'm sure that I used to have boundaries, however. If anyone sees them steaming past, trip them up for me, 'kay?
Chicago air is gritty and heavy and sometimes feels like flying through and acidified sandstorm. Chicago air is cold and ice-edged and heavy, or hot and dry and like old blankets wrapped around your head.
Chicago air is not avian air.
Ray does not realise how true this is until he and Fraser fall from the plane, land in the snow, and Ray finds himself staring up at a sky that seems to go on forever. Blue, he decides, is the colour of infinity.
The thought stays with him and, after the guns and the snowmobiles and the submarines and the parachuting Mounties, Ray finds himself asking Fraser for an adventure. Rayís colder than heís ever been in his life and all the clear air above him is making him feel almost agoraphobic, but the look on Fraserís face makes it worth it.
The adventure is the most exhausting thing that Rayís ever done. In the very back of his mind, next to all the other stupid ideas heís ever had and just in front of the remains of his feelings for Stella, are the words that Ray is thinking about saying to Fraser. If only the ice crevasse, snow storms and occasional polar bear would agree.
Somehow, without Ray even really noticing, their adventure has trickled away through his fingers, like the water now drip-drip-dripping from melting icicles as spring tentatively tightens its hold on the Northwest Territories. After being out in the ice for so long, Inuvik feels claustrophobic to Ray. It makes his skin itch all overóeven after heís had the longest, hottest shower in the history of everóand makes errant fight-or-flight impulses dance along his nerves.
Two days later Rayís sitting in the back of what may well be a toaster with an outboard motor glued to the front, flying south. His head makes a soft pthum noise as it hits the Perspex window to his left.
Back in Chicago, Ray goes through the motions for eighty one hours, fifteen minutes and twenty one seconds (heís not counting) until he finds himself standing in the middle of his cold, dark apartment with no idea of what he was doing.
ďFuck,Ē he says loudly.
The thing is itís not exactly a subject thatís easy to introduce. Also, I have wings fits into the average conversation about as well as by the way, Fraser, I think Iíve fallen in love with you, and itís not like Rayís managed to get that one out there.
Thereís also the fact that, while Ray is almost convinced that Fraser wouldnít freak out about the whole wing thing, heís even more sure that Fraser would want a demonstration, and thatís the kind of embarrassment that Rayís gone through with Stella and never wants to have a part of again. The problem is that although Ray has wings, heís not so good at the actual flying. Itís more like semi-controlled horizontal falling, and itís only improved slightly since that time that he fell out of the apple tree in Mrs. Wickmanís back yard when he was thirteen and landed amidst a blizzard of feathers.
Rayís gotten so used to feeling like his bones are made of lead that heís learned to control the wings so that theyíre only there when he wants them, which isnít often. It was a skill that he only had a mild appreciation for before he met Fraser, but after it became apparent that there was no limit to the number of ways that Fraser could get them thrown, flung, or otherwise dropped from varying heights, Ray became really fucking grateful that at least he could manage to land on his ass without showering everything with lost feathers.
So: Ray feels like his feet are permanently glued to the ground and heís in love with his ex-partner, whoís currently living thousands of miles away, in the ass-end of the Arctic. Fucking marvelous.
Ray isnít entirely sure how it happens. The hours kind of blend into days, which slip silently into months and then, suddenly, Welsh is forcibly making him cash in his holiday hours for the Ďhealth and wellbeing of the rest of the precinctí. Whatever that means. Sure, maybe heís been a little bit grumpy, and maybe heís been through five new partners in as many months, but itís not like itís his fault that the Chicago air feels like sewage on his skin and his so-called partners were completely useless.
Chicago air is not avian air.
And thatís all the justification that Ray can come up with for that fact that heís been traveling for what seems like days and is yet again being flown over the tundra in what appears to be a souped up toaster. That and the fact that he has a half-memory about Fraser talking about the Northwest Territories in spring.
Resting his forehead against the Perspex window elicits a strange sense of dťjŗ vu and Ray finds himself squinting down at the strangely colourful land scrolling away beneath the plane. Rayís really not sure whether itís his crappy eyes, or the fact that the whole plane is vibratingóthe juddering hum transferring itself through his forehead and nose to his entire bodyóbut the tundra looks blurry and unreal. The greens and browns, all scribbled over with bright scatter shots of colour that must be flowers, looks like something out of a fairytale.
Inuvik feels different this time: wide open and huge in a way that Chicago could never be and Ray takes the time, while heís waiting for the keys to the truck heís renting from the pilotís brother, to breathe deeply.
Itís a hour lateróan hour filled with rutted roads, fervent wishes for actual functioning suspension and the ever-present skyóthat Ray finds himself pulling up outside Fraserís cabin. Itís a small building, set back from what passes for the road, in the lee of some stunted-looking bushes that look like a colour-blind Picasso has gone postal on them.
Ray kills the engine and slides out of the driverís seat. He can hear the faint crinkle-slip of the stony soil beneath his boots, the sound of someone chopping wood and, above both of those, spiraling up into the sky, some kind of bird song, wild and free and alive.
Ray takes deep breaths until the urge to run away fades, until his feet no longer feel stuck in place, until it feels like the sky is soaking into his skin and that, if he just thought about it, he could float right up off the ground, and he walks towards the sound of chopping wood.
Chicago air is not avian air, but maybe that doesnít matter anymore.